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<i>Behind the Lens</i>: The History of Minneapolis Through Milling

Photos and musings from our photographer.

(David Kidd)
The history of Minneapolis can be found in the burnt ruins of a flour mill along the banks of the Mississippi River. The city saw potential in the rubble, stabilized what was left of the walls and erected the glass-and-steel Mill City Museum in 2003. It showcases the entwined stories of milling and Minneapolis. By the mid-1800s, mills were lining the banks of the river, making Minneapolis the milling capital of the world. The biggest was the Washburn A Mill, which began production in 1874 and ground enough flour to bake 12 million loaves of bread a day. But advances in technology eliminated dependence on waterpower, and the giant mills by the Mississippi fell into disuse. The Washburn A was shut down in 1965 and sat empty until it was nearly destroyed by fire in 1991. The museum was built a dozen years later, leaving many features of the original mill intact. Visitors can stop by the Baking Lab, or board the Flour Tower elevator ride and take in the view of the city from 110 feet up on the observation deck. They can see a lot from up there, but not the last operating water-powered mill in the state, 150 miles to the south.

David Kidd is a photojournalist and storyteller for Governing. He can be reached at
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